The Importance of Words

Colossians 3:16–17 holds an important truth: “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (emphasis added). Couples are to teach and counsel each other in the context of their marriage. They should be learning from each other and growing in the grace of God together. After all, they’re on the same team, made one by the vows exchanged in the presence of God and others.

That, I know, is easier said than done. Too often our tongues get us into trouble. There is a story that illustrates this point perfectly:

A man with six children was proud of his “achievement” and developed the habit of referring to his wife as “mother of six.” Much to his wife’s chagrin, he never called her “honey,” “sweetheart,” or “darling,” even when they were out in public. One night at a dinner party, when it was time to leave, the man called loudly to his wife, “It is time to go home, mother of six,” to which his exasperated bride answered, “Whenever you’re ready, father of four.”

Yes, “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity . . . and sets on fire the course of our life” (James 3:6, NASB). Who among us has never had poorly chosen words get away from us? Unfortunately, we all do that from time to time. As Scripture warns us, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Prov. 18:21). That is key to the marriage relationship. With your tongue, you can bless or curse your spouse, build up or tear down, encourage or discourage. Its power is remarkable and even frightening. Never forget this sober truth about your words:

What you say to and about your mate will soon become what is believed.

Repeated often enough, words become truth to not only the one who speaks them, but also to those who hear them. Do you remember the early days of your marriage, how sweetly you and your spouse spoke to each other? If you’re like many other couples, you probably developed a pet name just for your own use. Maybe you started calling each other “honey” or “baby,” or maybe you were more creative and came up with something gooey, like “sugar bunny” or “snookie-poo.” The term chosen really doesn’t matter. The point is, it is a term of endearment exclusive to your spouse. When spoken, it evokes feelings of warmth and belonging.

Unfortunately and far too often, those warm, fuzzy feelings fade, and before long, “sugar bunny” has become the “old lady,” and “snookie-poo” is the “good-for-nothing loafer.” With the change in words comes a shift of perspective. What we say is vitally important to the long-term health and stability of our marriage.

Think about it this way: When your spouse is going to meet your coworkers for the first time, they should be expecting to meet someone special because of the words you have spoken about him or her. But men, if you constantly talk about the “old ball and chain,” what do you expect your fellow workers to see when they finally meet your wife? Or ladies, what will your friends see when they meet the “couch potato” for the first time? It won’t be a knight in shining armor, will it?

The words that husband and wife speak to each other in their home become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Call someone a ball and chain often enough and that’s exactly what they’ll soon seem like to you—and maybe even to them too. Call your spouse “love of my life” and soon enough that’s what they’ll be in your eyes and theirs too. You see, your words determine your perspective. Ask yourself today, “Am I speaking life, or am I speaking death into my marriage?”

Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.